China’s New Consumer Class : Environmental Implications and International Significance
Motivated by a concern for Chinese citizens who have no choice but to live with the consequences of environmental deterioration, this paper provides policy recommendations to reconcile China’s promotion of a domestic consumer economy as the basis of future economic growth with its pressing environmental concerns. By analyzing publications and qualitative research in economic development, environmental studies, and consumerism in conjunction with statements released by the Chinese government, this paper examines the implications of a growing domestic consumer economy. Previous research has centered on China’s high-end consumption, yet middle and even lower class citizens desire material goods as a means of improving their social status relative to their wealthier peers. Eventually, 1.3 billion Chinese consuming by Western standards will engender disastrous environmental consequences on a domestic and international scale. Furthermore, China’s influence in the developing world presents a critical juncture: an alternative paradigm of economic development must be implemented before additional countries follow China’s environmentally destructive method of development.